Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Mayor To Be Reckoned With

Yet another saint this Holy Saturday: The legendary former mayor of National City, California, Kile Morgan, who died on Thursday at the age of 89. A Southern Baptist who got up at 3 a.m. every day to read his Bible, finding therein the wisdom to confound his political adversaries time and time again (as well as us reporters dogging, or trying to dog, his every move), Kile and his family did me the honor asking me to be his eulogist on the Friday in Easter week.

Another St. John Coming Your Way, Lord

Easter came a little early for John Castelli, 89, artist emeritus of St. John's Episcopal Church, who died peacefully in a room at his home that brimmed with his artworks, in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, just before 1 p.m. on Holy Saturday. The seminary-trained son of an Episcopal priest in Brooklyn, New York, John was an art teacher, painter, sculptor, and woodcarver. His Christus Rex hangs above the transept chapel in our church. Yesterday, Good Friday, as he lay in great weakness, patiently cared for by his beloved wife, Dorothy, we walked the 14 Stations of the Cross that he had carved, in faith that Christ had borne John and Dorothy's every burden.

Give rest, O Christ, to your servant with your saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting.

About This, We Should Be Mad As Hell

Watch this, and you may want to unplug the TV forever. (The segment includes mature language.)

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan

Light And Dark

Trabuco Canyon, in south Orange County, California, on Holy Saturday

Christ Has Died

Celebrating Holy Eucharist on Maundy Thursday (which I had the blessing of doing twice this year, in the morning at St. John's School and in the evening with our church congregation) has exceptional poignancy. While every mass is a somewhat mysterious evocation of the Last Supper, according to the powerful symbolism of the church calendar, Holy Eucharist on the Thursday in Holy Week has additional profundity as an anticipation of the light going out of the world on Good Friday. Mass isn't said again until Easter celebrations begin Saturday evening. To say one yesterday for the L'Aquila earthquake's 205 victims, priests needed a dispensation from the Pope.

At St. John's, we consecrated enough bread and wine Thursday night to serve those who came for Good Friday services last night. Afterward, the Altar Guild destroyed what was left. We'll have Holy Eucharist tonight at the Easter Vigil, after 12 young people and adults have been baptized. But between now and then, there's not a single blessed wafer to be had in our church. I have a few in the car, in the kit I use for home and hospital visitations, but that's it.

We know tonight's going to come. The sun will set, the light will be carried into the church, we will proclaim the Resurrection, and Easter morning will dawn. Of course, we know. But according to the church, for a few hours, Christ has died and been put away, wrapped in linen in a borrowed tomb after being harassed and killed by an impromptu coalition of ambitious, misled, frightened, and venal people. Whether you count him as blessed savior or wise teacher, he was the best there was, and because of the flaws and crimes of people like us, he has gone. It does help us count our blessings (and examine our lives) a little more diligently.

Now Pastor Rick's In The Middle

Sandy Rios compares Rick Warren's denial of his pro-Prop. 8 advocacy to Peter's denial of Christ. She accuses him of currying favor with cultural elites.

Friday, April 10, 2009

We'll Give Up Ours If You Give Up Yours

Charles Krauthammer thinks President Obama's call for the abolition of nuclear weapons would carry more weight if he were more effective at persuading Iran and North Korea to give up theirs.

Well, In THAT Case...

"The Economist":
Perhaps the most unexpected beneficiaries of same-sex marriage will be state economies. The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) reports that extending marriage to gay couples brings tourism, spending on weddings and licensing fees. Same-sex marriage in Iowa, UCLA predicted last year, would bring $5.3m to state coffers and $53m to state businesses. These hard times could use a bit more cash and celebration.

Not Quite An Historic First

David Abromowitz is understandably moved that there was a Passover Seder meal at the White House this week. In fact, he says that there's been nothing like it before:
[A]s anyone who has participated in a Passover Seder (literally, "order") knows, it is an experience of a different kind, an ordered retelling of the passage from slavery to freedom unfolding through symbolic reminders of every individual's responsibility to carry forward the freedom we inherited from prior generations.
Of course, that's also a pretty good definition of the Christian mass, or Holy Eucharist, which has indeed been celebrated at the White House. But it was about time for a Seder meal as well.

Good Friday Songs: "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord"

Johnny Cash and the Carter Family, performing in 1960

The Food Of Love At Park Terrace

On Maundy Thursday, Chuck Jay, director of the Villa Park, California High School Orchestra, brought his musicians to Rancho Santa Margarita to perform a concert for residents at Park Terrace, an assisting living community. Organized by Cheryl Dunn and Joan Haneishi, over a dozen adults and young people from St. John's went along to assist with refreshments and get to know some of the residents. I met a woman of 100 ("I was an Army brat; we lived everywhere," she said) and an Episcopalian (she's in search of a church!) who had helped do some programming for the ENIAC project -- the first computer -- around the time it was transferred from the University of Pennsylvania to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland after World War II.

Chuck and his skilled young musicians ran through an hour of spirited orchestra favorites. A highlight was a performance of "Casey at the Bat" narrated by Villa Park's gifted dramatic arts teacher, Stacy Castiglione. When Chuck called for a volunteer for a percussion part, one of our acolytes, Adam Lang, got the nod; that's Adam above, getting a quick lesson from the maestro. His dad, nationally noted trumpet player Buddy Lang, was in the audience and watched Adam's performance carefully. He got a thumb's up, as did the young man on the water bottles. All good work on the day in Holy Week when the church gives special attention to Christ's command that we love one another.

By A Perversion Of Justice He Was Taken Away

Christ Carrying the Cross, Hieronymus Bosch, c.1450-1516

Thursday, April 9, 2009

GOP Shrinking And Souring?

Andrew Sullivan argues that President Obama isn't the hyper-polarizer that analysis of recent poll results seems to suggest:
The polarization being touted by Rove and Wehner and Gerson and the rest of the Bush left-overs is almost entirely a function of Obama's astonishing popularity among Dems, buoyancy among Independents (whose approval rating is very close to the national average), and extremely polarized and shrinking pool of Republicans. To interpret that as Obama's fault, rather than a function of GOP extremism and disaffection, whipped up by Fox and Drudge and Pajamas and the rest of that machine, is, well, Rovian. But it is a reminder of what alone can keep the Bush-Rove GOP alive: the same old, ancient culture war debate that Obama offers us a chance to move past. They will do all they can to keep dividing this country until they see some signs of progress for their operation. That's all they've got.

Erasing Cambodia's Memory

A poignant feature by Seth Mydans in the New York Times about how most young people in Cambodia don't know about the communist genocide that killed 1.7 million between 1975-79. Various possibilities are explored. Then, buried in the story:
[Prime Minister] Hun Sen was a mid-level Khmer Rouge commander, though there is apparently no evidence that he committed major crimes. Several ranking members of his ruling party and the military are also former members of Khmer Rouge.

Because of these cross-currents in recent Cambodian history, the Khmer Rouge period has not been taught in school...
Oh, we get it. The government lies about or covers up recent history. No wonder younger people are ignorant. But if Nazis had been in the German government in the 1970s and were covering up the Holocaust, is this the kind of story we'd be reading?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Willing To Break Some China

Good for the loyal opposition. While the Obama administration has been relatively gentle on the Chinese now that they own $1 trillion worth of us, Sen. McCain says China should pressure North Korea on its nuclear program.

He Was For It Before He Was Against It

Pastor Rick Warren told Larry King that he hadn't endorsed Prop. 8 and that his only comment was in an e-mail to church members. But he had endorsed it and made a video. He makes a point to say he wasn't an anti-Prop. 8 organizer, as if the most famous pastor in the world has to sponsor house meetings and run the photocopier all night in order to have an impact on a political outcome.

Contradictory statements by a widely respected religious figure are dispiriting. Be for it or against it, brother, but please don't say you didn't when you did.

Driving Hamsters Are Funny

It's a last-scene-of-"Caddyshack"-with-the-dancing-gopher kind of thing.

Economic Depression

Raw data on how stressed out we are.

Great Guitars: "Layla" (1970)

Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler

"Friar Tuck"

An Episcopal priest is charged with using church funds for plastic surgery and botox treatments.

Holy Wednesday With Zack And Mark

On Tuesday afternoon, two young men, Mark Motley, 18, and Zach Rafferty, 17, died when the car Mark was driving hit a tree along a twisting road in south Orange County. Both had attended St. John's School. Zach graduated from the middle school in 2006, while Mark finished his pre-secondary education elsewhere. In his yearbook photo, Zach has spiky hair, a big Windsor knot in his tie (dad must've helped), and a winning smile. While a number of students remembered Zach (though none of the younger ones watching as flags were raised against a threatening sky), almost all the teachers and administrators did.

The news of his and his friend's death reached our campus on the morning of what Christians call Holy Wednesday. We usually use this time, in the middle of Holy Week, to teach the children about the meaning and power of Jesus's willing sacrifice for all creation. When tragedy intrudes at such moments in the church calendar, pastors and teachers must tread carefully. There's a collect, or prayer, for Holy Wednesday that includes a noble sentiment that may make perfect theological sense but would make none whatsoever, at least right now, to the family and friends of Zack and Mark. "Grant us grace," the prayer reads, "to take joyfully the sufferings of the present time, in full assurance of the glory that shall be revealed." Talking about today's present suffering, it will be a long time before the immensity of these children's loss will even be comprehensible. Take it joyfully? Only to the extent that people may take comfort from remembering the joy these two kids took from life.

Stories abounded today of Zach's irrepressible sense of humor. We heard them from his teachers and his high school friends, most of them St. John's alumni and alumnae on spring break who returned to our campus, the place they'd first known him, to seek some comfort in their grieving, to begin to try to understand the unknowable.

What a blessing that they came here today. One of the reasons young people are such miracles is that they're not afraid to admit when they're hurt, to gather together and cling to each other, to let tears stream down their faces without even trying to wipe them away. We sat with them, praying, counseling, but mainly letting them talk and cry.

Several Friends of Zack had never been on our campus but came along because it was important to his St. John's friends. Most of the teenagers had already visited the crash site. Some had gone to the victims' homes and expressed condolences. That was surely God's work. When the initial shock has passed, when the funerals are over, those who loved Zach and Mark the most may find that they want to keep talking about their heartbreak even though the world wants them to move on, to get over it.

These young pastors, the baptized priests of God who came home to our school today to mourn, promised us that they would keep checking in with the families in the weeks and months ahead, when the first excruciating wound has healed, leaving an ache that may become more manageable but will never go away. How could it, when two such lights have gone out of the world, and in Holy Week, of all times?

O God, whose beloved Son took children into his arms and blessed them: Give us grace to entrust Zack and Mark to your never-failing care and love, and bring us all to your heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

The Face Of Heaven

Holy Wednesday morning in Yorba Linda

Blessing The Rising Sun

Jews gathered at the Western Wall in Jerusalem this morning to watch the sun rise at the precise spot it was, tradition teaches, at the beginning of all things. (We'll be there soon, St John's friends!)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

You Know, Like Software

Journalists and newspapers want to be paid for their work. How controversial.

Bow? To A King Who Oppresses Women? Ow.

Super Groups: "London Calling" (1979)

Elvis Costello, the Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl, Bruce Springsteen, and Steven van Zandt, all making like punk rockers with the quarter-note downstrokes on their guitars, with No Doubt's Tony Kanal on bass. Song by the Clash. Performance from a Grammy tribute to the late Joe Strummer.

Obama's Pragmatism Deficit

Michael Gerson argues that President Obama's big-spending policies have polarized our politics as never before, his moderate temperament notwithstanding. Burgeoning deficits notwithstanding, I don't buy it. Gerson's theory doesn't account enough for many conservatives' pathological distrust of Obama, which preceded his '09-'10 budget.

It's A Free Country, Bill

Bill Sammon thinks the Obamas should get to church.

The President Called

Being trained for ordained ministry includes being schooled in the language of vocation and call. Both for ordained people and the laity, priesthood isn't a job but a vocation, something we grow into, work that becomes richer and deeper in the doing and that also helps us reach further into ourselves, work that is supposed to etch and mold you, to change the way you look at the world and at God's own work in creation. A baptized person's priesthood, whether ordained or not, is supposed to envelop and interpenetrate us. So we don't decide we want a job in the church. We set out to discern whether we are called, through our priestly vocation, to serve for a time in a place alongside the people of God.

Many years before I knew any of this lingo, I knew I was called to serve President Nixon. In the spring of 1979, I was a 24-year-old senior at the University of California, San Diego. I'd fallen a year behind my peers while working on the student newspaper and then two more while working full-time as a reporter in National City, California.

Sam Kernell's class in the American Presidency met twice a week that spring. As my classmates and I awaited his arrival one Tuesday, this thought came into my head, as clear as Johnny B. Goode's guitar: What if you are ever offered a job working for Richard Nixon? I wasn't a Republican, and I'd never been involved in politics. Whose voice was calling me? You tell me. Two days later, Sam walked in and said that the 37th President, then five years out of the White House and living 50 miles up the coast in San Clemente, was looking for research assistants to help with a future book (published in 1982 and titled Leaders).

I wrote two research papers, then went to work for him in New York City as a research and editorial assistant. I was his chief of staff from 1984-90 and came back to California to run the Nixon Library in September 1990.

And then he died. I may have thought I had been called to serve President Nixon. I may have considered him a vocation. I may even have understood that the experience had changed me forever. But as also sometimes happens on the path to Christian vocation, others had discerned differently. That week in April 1994, in separate conversations, two members of the President's extended family (though neither of them his blood relations) denounced me in a razor cold way that I had never experienced before, even from an angry teenager. It's what a prince's retainers experience when he dies and his successors turn out to have retainers of their own. For her part, Kathy O'Connor, RN's last chief of staff and by that time a loyal aide for 14 years, who had once spent her days fielding invitations for President Nixon from all over the world, found herself presiding over an office where the phone did not ring for weeks as she packed up his files and artifacts. (She is now the Nixon Foundation's chief, a distinct improvement over her predecessor.)

It wasn't a good time, and not just because the boss was gone. My first marriage began to unravel. My best friend among our volunteers, Don Bendetti, who had confidently promoted me for the Library job for reasons I never fully grasped and was yet another of my surrogate fathers, went into the hospital not long after RN's death and had a five-way bypass. Everything tasted of ashes.

Then I learned that the President had named me as a co-executor of his estate and in doing so had called me his friend in his will. All those years, I had been a loyal, sometimes zealous aide. I had traveled with him around the world and to China and Russia. I had talked with him for thousands of hours and kept my share of secrets. I had been his spokesman and helped him with books and articles and any number of nettlesome difficulties. I cared about him very much. But I never would've been so presumptuous as to call myself a friend.

Then, from the grave, he did. He had called me.

Some family members told me, or made clear in other ways, that they were unhappy about the choice President Nixon had made to settle his affairs. Perhaps he had hoped to spare them. Surviving him were lawsuits over the access to his White House tapes and reimbursement for his Presidential materials. We settled one case and ended up trying the other in federal court. The successful outcome paved the way for getting the Nixon Library into the federal system, which happened last year. My fellow executor, the President's stoic personal attorney, Bill Griffin, and I only managed to close the estate in 2008, after 14 years. Executors' fees were $67,000 each, lest anyone think that riches were in store beyond that cherished "friend" in the last will and testament of a complicated, peace-making statesman.

Intuitively understanding my sense of pride, soon after the President's funeral Don Bendetti had a plaque made taking note of my humbling new status as a Friend of Richard and dubbing me a "blue heart" for being true blue, a designation the President had once used for a couple of White House aides who felt dispirited during the Vietnam years. Ultimately, and especially after I began to follow a call to Holy Orders (I was ordained in January 2004), I understood that my job had become less a means of feeling valuable and useful, more an authentic expression of the servant I was meant to be of a larger purpose.

We learn to discern our calls by listening to our hearts, and to our bishops, if we're lucky enough to have one. Late last year, through both my heart and bishop, God seemed to be saying he wanted me to be a full-time priest. As I say goodbye in mid-February to my work at the Nixon Foundation -- 30 years after first meeting a great if imperfectly understood man who had made the world safer for my children and theirs, a man who deserved my best energies and far, far more -- my heart sounded blue.

In Which Nixon Saves Thousands Of Lives

Accused of complicity in Cambodia's mass murder by an accused mass murderer, the same week RN gets props for helping save lives at home. "War on cancer," incidentally, was his line:
The history of the “war on cancer” shows that this is an issue where bipartisan solutions are within elected officials’ grasp. In 1937, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation that received the support of every senator to establish the National Cancer Institute. The National Cancer Institute Act not only created the first federal cancer-fighting agency but also called for better coordination of cancer research, the purchase and distribution of much-needed radium to hospitals, and an education campaign designed to raise awareness about the need for early detection.

Four decades later, Republican Richard Nixon built on FDR’s legacy when he increased the federal commitment to cancer research. He declared that America should muster the “federal will” and provide the “federal resources” that could be used to launch a “campaign against cancer.”

While FDR’s and Nixon’s efforts have not resulted in a cure for cancer, it is clear that federal support for cancer research has saved the lives of thousands of Americans through the decades.

Real Reason For Separating Church And State

Politics at its best can't be too pure, since it must account for people at their worst, William Galston, a former Bill Clinton adviser, argues:
While politics is not without norms and standards, it must reflect the nature of the human species as self-interested and passionate as well as reasonable--and as capable of destruction as well as cooperation. Political norms and standards must also take into account the distinctive difficulties of collective action and the means sometimes needed to enforce compliance. If we look at political life from too high an altitude, we can no longer see it as it is.

Duch In The Dock, Pointing Outward

Kaing Guek Eav, a prison commander charged with torturing and killing 17,000 during the genocidal reign of the communist Khmer Rouge in Cambodia beginning in 1975, blames his crimes on the Nixon administration. Known as Duch, the defendant says that the Khmer Rouge (who murdered nearly two million Cambodians before being driven from power in 1979) gained strength only after the United States supported the regime of Lon Nol, whose second stint as prime minister began in 1969 and ended with the communist victory. Though it has not yet attracted much media coverage in the U.S., Duch's testimony may well reopen a debate among policy makers and historians akin to a theological discussion about the origin of original sin.

In 1968, the fanatical Khmers launched a guerrilla war in Cambodia with support from China and North Vietnam, whose troops had been using Cambodia's supposedly neutral territory as a safe haven for years. Cambodia's head of state, the mercurial and undependable Norodom Sihanouk, wouldn't take on the communists. In 1970, Lon Nol, with the support of the nation's legislature, deposed him and adopted a strong anti-communist line, which the U.S. naturally affirmed, whereupon Sihanouk went to work lending his considerable prestige in the countryside to building up the Khmer Rouge's already muscular insurgency.

Duch's dubious assertion that the Khmers were in tatters until Richard Nixon stepped in fits in neatly with William Shawcross's contention in 1979's Sideshow that the U.S. secret bombing of North Vietnamese positions inside Cambodia in 1969 (tacitly supported, ironically, by Sihanouk) turned the Khmer Rouge into a going concern. Writing in the "American Spectator," the late Peter Rodman, a former Kissinger aide, engaged in an epic exchange with Shawcross during the early 1980s which, as you may imagine, RN and HAK followed with considerable interest.

The tactical side of arguments such as Shawcross's and Duch's is rooted in the law of unintended consequences. If the D-Day invasion had failed and the Nazis killed all the French people who assisted the Allied forces, then FDR and Eisenhower, according to one way of looking at it, would've been responsible for the slaughter. In that kind of analysis, it's entirely up to the observer to identify the sine qua non. If you pick Nixon, then you're saying that the communists' policies while in power are the result of his having essentially spent his Presidency to keep them out. Is it too easy to say that the fault lies instead with the Khmers themselves, for actually envisioning their horrific acts of internal ethnic and socio-economic cleansing (and, of course, with those in Beijing, Moscow, and Hanoi who helped pay for it)?

Callow Songs: "I Am A Rock" (1966)

Simon and Garfunkel, who will play some dates in Australia in the middle of the year.

Watergate And Foreign Policy

Len Colodny, author of the revisionist Watergate book Silent Coup, has another coming out in the fall. Here's a preview from the HarperCollins catalog. The contention of the shrewdly titled The Forty Years War: Don't follow the money. Follow the neocons:
In this groundbreaking book, renowned investigative writers Len Colodny and Tom Shachtman chronicle the surprising evolution of the neoconservative movement—from its birth as a rogue insurgency in The Nixon White House through its ascent to full and controversial control of America’s foreign policy in the Bush years. The Forty Years War documents the neocons’ undermining of the Nixon White House, their success at halting détente during the Ford and Carter years, their uneasy alliance with Ronald Reagan, and their determination to eventually take the U.S. all the way to Baghdad.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Fording Ahead

Good news from the auto company not being run by Uncle Sam:
Shares of Ford Motor Co. soared 16 percent Monday after the company said it completed tender offers that will reduce its debt by 38 percent and shave millions of dollars off its interest costs.

Russians Were Expecting A Space Station Visit

Evidently Moscow lost Secretary Clinton's "reset" button after the North Koreans pressed their "fire" button. New York Times:
Igor N. Shcherbak, the Russian deputy envoy, said that his country did not think it was a violation of the resolutions banning ballistic missiles, but he added that Russia was still studying the matter.

Walking Backwards To Calvary

Many pastors send letters to their congregations at Easter. Here was mine to the people of God at St. John's. The Flannery O'Connor story is from Brad Gooch's new biography:
In 1932, when writer Flannery O’Connor was a five-year-old girl living in Savannah, Georgia, the press heard about a chicken on her family farm that walked backwards. It was the Depression, so editors were looking for upbeat stories. Perhaps we can sympathize in these difficult times for our nation and world and especially for many of those we love.

So a newsreel photographer came all the way from New York to see if he could get the chicken to perform on camera while Flannery stood by wearing her best dress. It defied them all day until finally, late in the afternoon, it walked a few steps backward and ran into a bush.

While Flannery never saw the resulting newsreel, the chicken and the photographer’s visit had a profound affect on her. She talked about them repeatedly. Her short stories and novels are full of images of backward motion. One character, she even wrote, was “going backwards to Bethlehem.”

I know just how he felt. Sometimes I’d rather look back to the birth of our LORD than contemplate the rough work of Holy Week, when we try to immerse ourselves in the experience of his betrayal, suffering, and death.

In nature’s cycle of new life -- the warmth of the springtime sun, the splashes of color in our gardens and on freeway medians -- we may experience a foretaste of the forever-life won for us by Christ’s rising. But just as we can’t get there by returning to perfect Christmas innocence, we can’t detour around Calvary and head straight for the empty tomb. First we have to climb up, touch the wood of the Cross, remember, and grieve.

So please join us for as many of our Holy Week services as you can this year. Let us go forward together through the valley of the shadow of death and then stand together at Easter in the light of Resurrection.

Mountain Songs: "High Sierra" (1995)

Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, and Dolly Parton. From their Trio II album (1999); Harley Allen's song was also recorded by Ronstadt in 1995.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Boston Massacre

The Boston Globe, $1.1 billion in debt, could close without major concessions from its unions. Over at "Slate," media writer Jack Shafer errs in arguing that newspapers aren't really essential to the future of democracy. What he misses is that every other major news source -- TV, radio, and the hackosphere -- gets the bulk of its information from newspapers. So it's not newspapers per se that are essential. It's reporting, and newspaper journalists do about 90% of it.

I Told You So, RN Would've Said

Jonathan Martin:
[I]n his first real taste of diplomacy, Obama is finding out that, like in domestic politics, the gushing praise that other leaders may bestow doesn’t necessarily translate into support for the entirety of his agenda. In other words, simply not being George W. Bush wasn’t enough.

Moderately Victorious

How Sen. Arlen Specter triumphs while maneuvering between left and right.


Did New York's crusading anti-AIG attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, know about the AIG bonuses all along?

Guess We'll Need Metal Detectors In Anaheim

A leader in the American Anglican Council, and a proponent of the "Anglican Church in North America," chooses a violent metaphor to describe his movement:
Fr. Ashey compared the AAC to the Special Forces of the U.S. military.

“Like Special Forces, we go behind the scenes and we blow up things,” he said, adding quickly that what the AAC blows up is principalities and powers.

Smart Songs: "Dumb Things" (1987)

Paul Kelly (and my 1000th post!)

On The Haiti Beat

Nicholas Kristof deserves high praise for covering stories most in the media ignore, such as the consequences of the world's failure to promote humane family planning in the developing world.

The Stones In Winter

From Alan Light's review of superfan Bill German's new book about the the greatest old rock and roll band in the world:
The Stones themselves come off more or less as you’d expect: Jagger is mercurial and imperious; Richards is down-to-earth, wild and soulful; Wood, still slightly insecure as the “new kid” in the band, compensates by being the most social; and Charlie Watts is so private and detached that he proved constantly elusive.

Will Ford Be Company One?

As the feds profess no interest in running GM while replacing its CEO, packing its board, and chiding it for making too many big cars, George Will, who seems especially sardonic lately, writes:
The stunning shift in consumer preferences that should make the White House's freshly minted auto experts feel vulnerable has been reported under headlines such as "Like a Rock: Hybrid Car Sales Plummet" (Wall Street Journal, Dec. 9) and "Hybrid Car Sales Go from 60 to 0 at Breakneck Speed" (Los Angeles Times, March 17). Absent $4 gasoline, customers, those nuisances with their insufferable preferences, do not want the vehicles the politicians want them to want, even with manufacturers now offering large rebates and other incentives.

The two best-selling vehicles in America this year are large pickup trucks (Ford F-Series and Chevy Silverado). In February, Toyota sold 13,600 Tundra and Tacoma pickups and 7,232 Priuses. It sells the Prius at a loss, which it can afford to do because it makes pots of money selling pickups. Has the Car Designer in Chief, aka the president, considered the possibility that what he calls "the cars of tomorrow" will forever be that?
If Ford can ride out the recession without government subsidy, it will be interesting to see how it fares in the long term, in comparison with its tw0 dole-full competitors, without Washington telling it what kinds of cars to build.

They'll Really Be Able To Relate In Aspen

Canadian songwriter Bruce Cockburn, preparing for a show in Aspen, Colorado on Tuesday, tells a local reporter about one of his new songs:
[I]t grew out of an attempt during the George W. Bush years in the White House to “rehabilitate the image of [former President] Richard Nixon. It struck me, what would it mean to really rehabilitate Richard Nixon.”

So he wrote a song, in the first person, about Nixon reincarnated as a black, single mother trying to make it in a white world.

“It’s kind of a personal song,” he said, “and it’s not, really, that dark.” He said he may play it in the Aspen show.

Kwangmyongsong-2 Blues

The North Korean launch was a dud.